Mike Babcock addressed the media after practice on Thursday, discussing the team’s first 15 games, Frederik Andersen’s incredible start to the year, the Hyman – Tavares – Marner line, and more.
Mike, what’s gone into the start of your season through 15 games to lower your shots per game by two?
Babcock: Obviously, you’re trying to do a better job. We want to continue to do that. You’re trying to give up the least amount of scoring chances. We don’t spend as much time worrying about shots as some people do, but the scoring chances are important. Our last two segments have been the lowest in the four years I’ve been here, so that’s real positive.
Now we’ve got to do it again. We’re starting a new segment. We’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to win the three segments we’ve been in. Now we’ve got to take another step forward here. We’ve got a couple of back-to-backs with travel, so this will be a good test for us.
Freddy Andersen has been talking about how much effort he’s put into his body and diet. He said your career is only so long and you have to try to maximize it. How much has his off-ice preparation showed through this season?
Babcock: I think just leadership since Freddy has got here – who he is now and who he is when he arrives, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. I sat with Freddy and his family at his home and it was pretty special because he was real proud to talk about it in front of his mom and dad. Freddy is a special guy and the guys treat him that way here. He is a real likeable guy, but he has worked hard at it.
One of the reasons why you are appreciated is because you work hard at it and you do things right, and the guys can trust you on a nightly basis. Some guys walk in and they start in the NHL, but most guys don’t. It takes a long time for you to be a dependable guy. You’ve got to be a workhorse. You’ve got to be mentally strong. You’ve got to have a short memory, so he’s done a real nice job of that and we’ve just got to keep him going.
The consistency he has brought year after year – is that the more impressive part than just the one month with the .930 save percentage?
Babcock: I would say to you that the measure in the end for all of us is in the second season, but you’ve got to get there. In the national league, if you look at the standings, it looks to me like we’re all the same. There is no difference. What puts you ahead – is it special teams? Is it goaltending? Is it more depth? I don’t know the answer to that for sure, but I just think a guy like him, the more consistent and mentally strong he becomes, the more confidence he has and the more confidence he gives us.
To me, that is all a big part of winning. You go through the goalies that have won – there is something about them. It is a swagger, a mental toughness. It’s a short memory. A lot of things allow them to be successful.
Mitch was saying that he, John and Zach are still feeling each other out on the cycle. What sort of room for growth do you see for that line when it comes to establishing the cycle?
Babcock: I talked to him about that this morning. Obviously, over time, with any players, you just figure out over time what you can do and what you can’t do, what players you can make and what plays you can’t make. They are our heaviest line by a long ways. They spend more time in the offensive zone than the other lines. We need them to continue to grow in that area.
You don’t necessarily have to be 6’3 to play on the cycle. Is that kind of a myth?
Babcock: It’s a myth for sure. But the more skill you have, the lighter you can be. Light doesn’t mean that you play light. You’ve got to be heavy on the puck. Some guys you can’t take the puck off of. Other guys play light. That means they don’t have the puck and they’re one and done all the time. In order to be successful, you’ve got to be heavy.
Hayley Wickenheiser a couple days ago was around the team. What kind of value does she bring to have someone with her resume around the team?
Babcock: She is with the development team is what she is. She can provide a lot just because of the kind of professional she is. I’ve known Wick a long, long time. She is a real good person and I think she is going to give a lot to our young people and our junior people that are drafted.
When she is with us, there is a two part process to that. It’s her learning and understanding the national league, and what they’ve got to get to. I think that’s the biggest thing – sitting where amateur scouts sit, you sit in that box 200 feet from the ice and you don’t have a clue how fast it is and how heavy they are and how talented they are. I think it is real important that everyone see the national hockey league a few times a year so you really know what a player is. You don’t think you know. You know what a player is.